POULSBO — Dale Rudolph, president of the Poulsbo Historical Society and a former City Council member, died July 6 at 7:25 a.m. after a long illness, according to his family.
Some of his family was at his side, "When he left showing more courage than I could ever imagine," Ted Portmann, Rudolph's brother-in-law, wrote in a statement issued by the Poulsbo Historical Society.
Rudolph’s family moved to Poulsbo in 1958 when he was 10 years old. His father Curt Rudolph and his brother-in-law James Burk purchased the Poulsbo Bowl, a 12-lane bowling alley on State Route 305. Rudolph cleaned lanes in the alley before school and earned $1 per shift keeping score during weekend tournaments, according to "The Spirit of Poulsbo."
Rudolph graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1966 and studied engineering at the University of Washington. He worked for the Department of Defense and, after retiring, he worked as a contract regional planner for the Navy.
When city planners began putting together Poulsbo’s first Comprehensive Plan in 1994, Rudolph took an interest. He attended citizen advisory committee meetings, and was soon appointed to the committee when one of its members bowed out.
Months later, he was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the council by then-Mayor Mitch Mitchusson, who worked closely with Rudolph’s father during his dozen years on the council. Rudolph retired as councilman in 2010 after 17 years.
"I guess the Rudolph family is about as close as we have in the modern era [to] a Poulsbo political dynasty, kind of like a Kennedy or Bush," said Councilman Ed Stern, who worked alongside Rudolph for 20 years. "His dad, Curt, served on council and held things together as acting mayor during the transition in early '80s. Dale was very proud of his dad. I believe that it was in no small measure, [Rudolph] serving on the council as carrying out that legacy."
The first memory that many had of Rudolph was his passion for Poulsbo.
Bob Hawkinson, former historical society board member, has known Rudolph since they were kids, playing "yard basketball" in their Finn Hill neighborhood. Rudolph was the "moving force" for negotiating space for the historical society's museum in the new city hall.
"Dale was always very passionate about Poulsbo and loved Poulsbo. He always wanted to make it a better place," he said.
During Rudolph's time on the council, he was liaison to the historical society. Former Mayor Donna Jean Bruce floated the idea to current Mayor Becky Erickson to create a Poulsbo Historical Museum, according to the PHS board.
"Dale jumped on it and became the head negotiator with the city in setting up the contract," the PHS stated in an email. "It was another example of Dale's persistence, hard work and tenacity that carried it through, and allowed us to open our doors, offering the community and visitors a unique and quite amazing historical repository and museum that showcases the Poulsbo area and heritage.
"This dedication and faith in the museum and what it brings to the community, along with his determined leadership, and help of highly skilled volunteers, has kept our museum growing and strong."
Jim Shields, PHS vice president, said Rudolph was an excellent council member. "I thought he was probably one of the best thinkers on council," Shields said. "I know he was very thorough. He was a spark plug, he was a leader."
Rudolph worked with the museum board right up until the end, working from his laptop, Sheilds said.
Rudolph also held positions on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and the Puget Sound Regional Council, Stern said. Rudolph's forte was planning, populations and land use, Stern said.
"He was very no-nonsense, very opinionated, and most of the time very right," Stern said. "[He] and I had our share of agreements and disagreements, but we always had respect for each other. He was committed to having Poulsbo grow, but have it grow right and stay Poulsbo."
Mayor Becky Erickson said Rudolph was an early political mentor for her.
"He loved Poulsbo," she said. "He had this stewardship and affection of a person who deeply loved this community. He worked tirelessly, did his homework … He worked hard, worked hard for the community. I didn't always agree with him, but I never doubted his respect and affection for the community."
In its statement announcing Rudolph's death, the PHS stated, "Dale was admired greatly for his strength of will, his positive 'never give up' attitude, his quiet passion and compassion, his smile and his excitement and enthusiasm for the museum, his friends and family. Many of the PHS Board members and the volunteer docents who run the museum, have grown up with Dale ... he was our life-long friend. For these people and for Dale's loving family, we send our heartfelt condolences. He will be missed."
Rudolph is survived by his wife Barbara, two children, and many family members. Services and a memorial are pending. This story will be updated as information becomes available.
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